Give New York a big story and the city will inevitably make it bigger. The first World Series between the Yankees and Mets was not enough; not even with an irresistible, custom-made nostalgia factor — the flashback to the famous Subway World Series matchups of the 1940s and ’50s, the Yankees against the New York Giants and especially the Brooklyn Dodgers.
In 2000, the boroughs were bloodthirsty. It would be the first time Roger Clemens and I had faced off since he hit me in the head back in July. They wanted a cage fight.
To the guys in our clubhouse, however, including me, the personal grudge match was, at best, number three in the pecking order of importance. Number two was taking out the Yankees and changing our image as second fiddles. Number one was winning a World Series, no matter who it came against.
On a cold, windy Sunday night, Mike Hampton — not I — was Clemens’s opponent in Game 2. By the time I came up in the first inning, Timo Perez and Edgardo Alfonzo had already struck out. The Rocket was on his game and obviously pumped up to maximum intensity.
In spite of all the flashbulbs popping and the feeding frenzy over Roger and me, the scenario was not as unsettling as that eerie night back in July. I sincerely believed that, with all the hype surrounding the showdown, Clemens wouldn’t dare throw at me again. He’d taken a public beating for it the last time and since then had come under more scrutiny for buzzing Alex Rodriguez on consecutive pitches — he fired the ball up around A-Rod’s neck — in the ALCS against Seattle. Rodriguez didn’t have much to say about it afterward, but Lou Piniella, the Mariners’ manager, did. And he wasn’t the first manager to complain about Clemens. When Roger pitched for Toronto and hit Jeter and Scott Brosius, Joe Torre himself had been one of those calling him out. Now, with the microscope he was under and the stage he was on, I couldn’t imagine him pulling any more of his macho bulls—. On the other hand, Roger was known for working himself into a competitive fever that led to some strange things.